In an article concerning The Years with Ross, Gilbert Highet refers to it as “clean, first rate reporting” and also suggests that it can be thought of as another chapter in the free-and-easy autobiographical saga begun by Thurber with the publication of My Life and Hard Times (1933). What Thurber is principally reporting are the various conflicts he and others had with Ross during their association of twenty-five years at The New Yorker. Working in an office near Ross, Thurber was never very far from even those conflicts that did not directly concern him.
Temperamentally and aesthetically, the two were at odds. Thurber’s business as both writer and cartoonist was to make people laugh; Ross often acted as if at least a part of his business in life were to avoid laughing (a word Ross used frequently was “grim”). Thurber was fascinated by—and helped envision in the first half of the twentieth century—the battle of the sexes; Ross wanted as much as possible to pretend the battle did not exist, in the hope that it would consequently go away. Sex, for him, was an “incident.” Ross often feared that Thurber—and other cartoonists—were sneaking sexual double entendres into their work and that trouble would result. Thurber once did a drawing which came to be known in the offices of The New Yorker as “The Lady on the Bookcase.” In it there is indeed a lady on a bookcase; below her, in what appears to be a...
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